"Laboratory Professionals Get Results" is the theme for National Medical Laboratory Professional Week (NMLPW), April 22-28, and the numbers show just that at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).
More than three million reportable tests are done per year in labs at WRNMMC, according to Navy Capt. Larry R. Ciolorito, laboratory manager.
Ciolorito, and Navy Capt. David M. Larson, chief of the Department of Pathology at WRNMMC, agreed on the importance of NMLPW because it spotlights staff members who perform critical functions behind the scenes in daily health care delivery at Walter Reed Bethesda.
Larson credits the 330-member lab and pathology staff with not only achieving these results each day, but also for the department's "highly successful" unannounced inspection by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) in November. He explained the inspection, conducted every two years, is the "gold standard" in laboratory accreditation in the United States.
Performed by board-certified pathologists, the team inspects facilities for quality management, safety and overall operations of labs.
"The Department of Pathology consists of seven services located in five separate physical locations of the command," Larson continued. He added the lab provides analytical services supporting health care providers in the diagnosis of disease, preventative health care, as well as pre- and post-deployment screenings.
Missions within the department include specimen collection and accessioning, surgical pathology, cytopathology, autopsy pathology, infectious disease testing, transfusion services, blood donor center collection and screening, and clinical and reference lab testing.
"It's impossible to have done what we have done, and are doing daily, without a truly joint and unified approach on the part of our staff," Ciolorito said.
"We have good people," Larson added. "They are hard working and professional."
If there is a common thread among the professionals in the lab, it would be their "love" for helping others, especially those in uniform and who have been injured.
Lizette Monhart, a medical technologist, said she "loves helping patients by performing [her] job to the best of [her] knowledge." She works in the hematology section of WRNMMC's core lab where she performs complete blood counts, urinalysis, coagulation, and body fluids and flow cytometry.
"I love helping the wounded warriors and their family by performing these high complexity tests," Monhart said.
Vicki Baer, a registered histologist who has worked at WRNMMC since 1999, agreed, saying, "Working at WRNMMC has given me the opportunity to lend my services and skills to the brave men, women and their families who serve our country."
Baer performs a variety of special stain procedures, maintains quality control records and orders supplies for the lab. In addition, she trains and supervises new histopathology technicians, as well as new staff and students in the lab's special stain unit.
"I truly enjoy working in the special stain area," Baer continued. "Although some of the stains are automated, there are many that are done by hand, which is like being a chef in a busy restaurant."
In regards to observing National Medical Laboratory Professional Week, Baer said, "[It's] an opportunity to educate others on the 24/7 commitment it takes to provide a service for our staff and patients."
"Oftentimes, the lab is not noticed as being providers to the critical care of patients," added Nakita Glorioso, a medical laboratory technologist. "We play a big role in the background so that so many others can shine in the foreground, and that is quite alright with us. But, of course, it is great to be recognized every once in a while."
Glorioso works in the core lab in the chemistry department where she performs a variety of tests, including basic metabolic panel, liver function, pregnancy and drug. She enjoys helping physicians and nurses find answers to help patients.
"I believe our job is one in which we have to have a great attention to detail and dedication to continue to learn," said Glorioso. "I come to work willing to learn with patience, and prepared to provide quality health care."
"I feel National Medical Laboratory Professional Week is important because it brings awareness to the dedication and commitment the lab profession provides to the quality of patient care," said health technician Tracey Johnson. She works in Client Services, Referral Section, where she is responsible for receiving, organizing and maintaining the accessioning and processing of clinical specimens for multiple labs to ensure accurate and timely handling of samples.
Johnson explained team work, planning, consistency and efficiency are necessary to providing quality patient care, and those qualities are found in the lab staff. "They are excellent team players who possess friendly and pleasant attitudes," she said.
Army Sgt. Danette Hartzell worked at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) before coming to WRNMMC after WRAMC and the former National Naval Medical Center merged. She is a medical laboratory technician who is currently functioning as a supply (logistics) technician for the lab and pathology department where she's responsible for tracking and ensuring adequate inventory for the labs, particularly the Infectious Disease lab.
"I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when all areas [of the lab] are functioning properly, [and] knowing that we have been able to get results out to patients and providers to make a difference in a warrior's life," Hartzell said.
The Soldier said when working in the lab it's important to remember "'fast is not always friendly,' and 'do it right the first time.' We work in an area in the hospital where a small mistake can have a huge impact on another human being's life. By doing it right the first time, one has the satisfaction of knowing they did their best.
"When I need to be reminded of why our jobs are so important, I take a walk around [the base]," Hartzell added. "Seeing our wounded brothers and sisters making the best of what has been handed to them always inspires me to move forward."
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Justin Harris agreed. The certified medical laboratory technician said, "After being deployed to Afghanistan and working in a combat hospital, I was able to see the fruits of my labor. I left my deployment with a new prospective on life. Being able to treat wounded warriors and their families motivates me daily."
National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week originated in 1975 as National Medical Laboratory Week, or NMLW, under the auspices of the American Society for Medical Technology, now called the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS).
In the fall of 2005, NMLW was changed to National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week to focus on the people whose expertise is needed in the performance lab testing. Beginning in 2010, the organizers decided to "brand" the event by using the same theme each year: Laboratory Professionals Get Results.
There are approximately 300,000 practitioners of clinical laboratory science in the United States, according to the ASCLS.